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Break It Down, Build Yourself Up

BREAK IT DOWN, BUILD YOURSELF UP

Nicholas Caracandas

After my last article you will now have an idea as to how to make your diet your own.  But, what about the food itself?  How can you guarantee a well-balanced, healthy diet?

As mentioned in my previous article  ‘You Can Lose Weight‘ I mentioned, that when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet and losing excess weight, there are four main things to pay extra attention to in order to ensure that you lose weight for life.  These were – Calories, Carbs, Proteins and Fats.

Calories

Calories are measurements of energy.  It’s simple: 3 500 calories equals half a kilo of fat.  Burning 3 500 calories means losing half a kilo of fat.  There’s a very simple equation when it comes to weight loss and it is: BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU CONSUME.

Men between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume between 2 200 and 2 600 calories per day and women between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume between 1 800 and 2 200 calories per day.

If you are active, you will burn more calories.  Your metabolism stays high, your energy levels stay strong and you naturally do less emotional and unconscious eating.  In fact, the more active you are, the better food choices you will want to make.  One thing leads to another.  It feels good to be active  and it inspires you to want to compliment that good healthy feeling with healthy eating habits and food choices.

Carbs

Carbs are the most common source of energy found in food.  Refined might be good when it comes to manners, but not when it comes to your health.  Refined grains are stripped of all their nutrients and when you add refined sugar and fat to your refined grains (the three are usually found together) you have an artery just waiting to be clogged!

But, whilst carbs have generally got a bad rep, remember that not all carbs are bad.  Whole grains are vital for a nutrition rich diet and are a good source of energy.  Refined grains break down quickly and make your liver work harder to churn out insulin for energy – a danger for those at risk for diabetes.  Whole grains take longer to break down due to their fiber content and, therefore, require less insulin production and provide

sustained energy for longer periods of time.  Good carbs are unprocessed carbohydrates in their natural state.  Pretty much all leafy vegetables and fruits fall into this category.

In my view, the best incentive to choose whole grains when you are trying to lose weight is that foods with high fiber content make you feel fuller for longer with fewer calories.  Foods with high fiber content have also been found to help reduce cholesterol in the blood.

Proteins

Protein is a long chain of amino acids linked together.  Also known as the building blocks of life, proteins most important function is to build, maintain and replace tissue in our bodies.  Our muscles, organs and some of our hormones are made up mostly of protein.  Proteins are involved in almost every function performed by the cells in our bodies.  Without protein, life would be impossible.  Our bodies, are however only able to manufacture some of the amino acids (protein) we need to function; the rest (known as essential amino acids) must be obtained through our diets.  Great protein sources include fish, avocados, beans, soya, dairy, nuts and white meat poultry.

But, if I asked you what kinds of foods contain protein (or more specifically essential amino acids) your first response would probably be meat.  The problem with meat (and all other animal products) is that it contains cholesterol.  So, if you are looking for a healthier alternative, for example, something with heart-health benefits and none of the risks associated with meat, you should try plant source proteins instead.

There is clear evidence to suggest that a diet derived exclusively from the vegetable kingdom can provide all the essential amino acids for optimal health.  Some proof: in three weeks overweight subjects lost on average 5 – 8 kilograms on a plant based diet.  People with weight to  lose the most weight when they start a low-fat, plant based diet.

I understand some people love their meat (me included) and don’t want to give it up (count me in again).  That’s okay, but you should stick to organic, free range, grass-fed sources and try healthier options like lean beef.  Also give white meat poultry (my personal substitute) a try or fish or seafood.  You might like it more than you think.

Fats

Most foods contain some type of fat and some are better for you than others.  Fats are a necessary nutrient.  Our bodies need fat in order to function properly.  It helps with our energy production and blood clotting.  Fats also help to regulate blood pressure and to maintain a healthy nervous system.  Fats carry soluble vitamins from the food in your body and your skin, hair and nails all depend on it.

However, eating the wrong kinds of fat can be harmful and can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Let me break it down for you.

There are good healthy fats; these fats include:

  • monounsaturated fat: olives, avocados and nuts;
  • polyunsaturated fat: vegetable oils, bananas, hempseed and cereals; and
  • omega 3 fatty acids: fish, flax (flax seeds) and walnuts.

Then, of course there are the bad fats; these include:

  • saturated fat: animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs;
  • trans fats: hydrogenated oils found in cookies, crackers, cakes and also common in fried foods like donuts and french fries; and
  • cholesterol: animal products, dairy.

Yours in training

Nicholas Caracandas.

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